Connecting with Teens

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Connecting with Teens

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My daughter is getting older, and I feel like I am losing touch with her. I know that teenagers want to be independent, but how do I stay connected with her.

I believe that many parents are scared of their teens—really! I often hear anxious adults say things such as, “my teenager never wants to talk and she is rarely ever home.” The first comment is a myth and the second is an excuse.

Teens not only want to talk their parents, they need too. In fact, teenagers that spend regular time with mom and dad are happier, make better life choices, and have higher grades than kids who do not. Furthermore, today’s teens are more adept at communicating than previous generations as they are always connected to someone some way through technology such as texting and Skype or in person during school free time and weekend parties.

If talking with your teen has been a turbulent task, start small and simple. Focus on making “mini” connections through eye contact and basic questions. Ask not only how their day was, but also talk to their friends. Keep questions brief and follow up their initial monosyllabic retort with another question. A persistent parent will foster full sentence responses in a very short time.

For the more confident parent, take a risk and invade your teen’s space. A closed door does not mean stay out of my room; it means knock before entering. So do just that and tell your teen something interesting about your day such as a brief story about the office or a short anecdote about the “annoying” guy who stole your parking space. Keep it light and engage as equals. Eventually, they will share stories with you.

While it may be difficult to believe, most teens actually enjoy spending short snippets of time with mom and dad, especially kids that feel connected. Ask your daughter directly or covertly convince your teen to have a consistent parent/child activity. Using food such as Sunday brunch or an after school trip to the local coffee shop is a great way to appeal to their sensibilities. Don’t talk about tough topics unless your child suggests it. This time is about bonding and enjoyment.

Providing opportunities to talk will strengthen your relationship. As your teens ages, listen more than you talk and avoid being judgmental. It is difficult being sandwiched between childhood and adulthood. Teens need to make their own decisions, even bad ones, but small amounts of guidance and large amounts of support will keep them moving forward in life.